Amid the science-fiction battlegrounds of hit video game “Overwatch”, many gamers will have been surprised to find the figure of late Chinese college student Wu Hongyu.
Wu, studying at the Guangdong University of Technology in south China, died on May 23 after confronting a motorbike thief.
The video game fan’s last post on his WeChat account was “Is there anyone else waiting for Overwatch?” The game, a multiplayer first-person shooter that has accumulated tens of millions of regular players, was released worldwide the following day.
Overwatch developer Blizzard Entertainment placed an image of Wu on a mural on the side of the game’s Lijiang Tower. He is wearing an astronaut suit with his name written on it. Around him is a white wreath, while on a red board behind him are characters that read “heroes never die.”
“The theme of Overwatch is that the world needs heroes,” said Xiang Ming, public relations manager for Blizzard in China. “Hongyu did something brave, and we did this to salute to him.”
Wu Hongyu saw a photo of a thief wearing a red vest circulating on WeChat before he encountered the man on the afternoon of May 23. Together with a schoolmate, they rode a motorbike to catch the guy. But the thief knocked them down and Wu was seriously injured. He died despite medical treatment.
Inspired by Wu’s last WeChat post, players sent e-mails to Blizzard Entertainment while others, like Ding Yongkun, left posts online. “I would like to see if we could preserve something for the hero in the Overwatch world because we need more heroes like him,” Ding said.
According to Xiang Ming, the Chinese branch soon verified Wu’s story and submitted the suggestion to the company’s headquarters in the United States.
“Part of the game is about China’s aerospace industry, and the character yu in Hongyu’s name means universe,” Xiang said. “So we designed the figure in remembrance as an astronaut with a white wreath.”
The figure not only appears in Chinese servers but those across the world as well, he added.
Chinese players discovered the change earlier this month. “[Gamers] running past Lijiang Tower, would you please stop for a while and mourn him,” said a web user.
Wu’s parents have felt some consolation from seeing their son memorialized. “To some extent, they fulfilled a wish of his,” said the father. “It is my hope that more people could get to know what he did.”
Overwatch players have been discussing Wu’s story on Sina Weibo.
“I was touched, by both the hero and the company, which showed humanistic concern,” said someone with the screen name “potato-tomato.”
“They did what they believed was right, which makes them heroes. Heroes never die. As one of the bravest in our community, Hongyu lives forever, in another world,” said “Suhewanyun.”
This is not the first time game developers have added non-player characters of real people as commemoration. World of Warcraft gamers has found numerous details in remembrance of deceased players and developers.